Maybe You’re Too Selfish

This month my wife and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. In thinking through various events of the past 18 years, I’ve made an interesting discovery. Every single time that we’ve had conflict in our marriage, it was due to someone being selfish.

And by someone, I mean me.

I’m not going to say that our arguments are always my fault, but only because I’m too stubborn to admit that.

“Wait a minute,” I hear some of you objecting. “Surely in 18 years at least some of the fights are your wife’s fault.”

Actually, wait, that’s not your voice; that’s my pride objecting.

It is true. I can’t think of a single time that we’ve had a disagreement about anything where the issue didn’t boil down to my own selfishness.

The aforementioned struggle with pornography was an obvious issue of selfishness, but even less obvious fights were rooted in it, too.

When our kids were little, and we fought over me not getting home on time, I could justify myself and say that work kept me really late. And that was true, but only because I didn’t assert myself in the service of my family.

In disagreements about when and how to reprimand and/or punish the kids, my selfish desire to be right has overruled my desire for peace in our marriage.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to beat myself up too much. Better to just get over myself.

Getting Over Yourself

Selfishness causes fights; service avoids them.

When I serve my wife, I choose to ignore my initial desires in favor of hers.

When a quarrel arises, ask yourself if you’re being selfish.

The easiest way to end an argument is to think about why your side is important to you and why your wife’s side is important to her.

Am I saying you should be a pushover, that you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in?

Not at all. Or, well, maybe.

I’m saying to respect your wife enough to defer to her on issues that don’t matter in the grand scheme.

If you have a fundamental disagreement with your wife, ask yourself if you’re arguing from selfish motives or from a principle. If you determine that it’s a principle, find a way to articulate the principle to your wife without arguing.

Everyone thinks they’re right and that their spouse should see things their way.

Determine that your marriage is more important than your way of doing things.

Homework

Think back over arguments or disagreements in your marriage. How did selfishness contribute? Were you the selfish one, or was your wife to blame (hint: it was you)? Decide now to put your wife’s desires above your own. Determine to resolve conflicts by serving your wife instead of demanding your own way.

 

Out-Serve Your Wife

Pastor, craftsman, beekeeper, and all-around Renaissance man Tony McCollum once said that the goal of marriage is to out-serve your spouse.

This statement radically changed how I thought about my marriage (so much so that I now see I’ve mentioned it before). I’d always wanted my wife to be happy, and I assumed her happiness would contribute to my own, but until I heard that statement, it had never occurred to me that the only way to make that happiness stick long-term was to serve her as well and as often as possible.

Trying to outdo my wife with service is a good goal for many reasons:

Why to Serve

1) Serving her requires thought – I have to intentionally think of ways to serve her, which means she is the focus of positive attention from me. Thinking of my wife in a positive way helps sustain and increase my love for her.

2) It takes the focus off of me – When I dwell for any length of time on how I’m feeling, whether life is going “my way” or not, I can get depressed and self-centered. When I’m thinking of ways to serve my wife, I don’t have as much mental space to dwell on myself.

3) Along with the benefits to my mental state, if I’m doing it right, my wife will appreciate my serving her, which will mean she’s thinking positively about me as well. Your wife feeling positively towards you is pretty much a requirement for a happy marriage.

So, what does it mean to “serve your wife?” What does that look like?

How to Serve

It doesn’t necessarily mean waiting on her like a queen, doing all the chores while she rests up. Serving your wife doesn’t even have to mean doing acts of service, as defined in the Five Love Languages, unless that’s your wife’s primary love language, in which case it probably will mostly mean that. But it really means doing things that speak her love language, whatever that may be – working to make sure you keep your wife’s love lank full.

So if her primary love language is Words of Affirmation, serving your wife will mean making sure you pay her sincere compliments and speak tenderly / lovingly to her. It will also mean refraining from harsh criticism and couching needed criticism in words affirming her and encouraging her and supporting her.

If her primary love language is Gifts, serving her will look a lot like unexpected flowers or tickets to a show you know she’d like.

If it’s Quality Time, serving her might look like focused attention with no distractions as she tells you about her day or anything that’s on her mind.

And, if her language is Physical Touch, it might look like a shoulder rub while she’s working at the computer or holding hands on the couch or out in public.

Conclusion

Serving your wife means intentional focus on showing her love in the way that she best receives love. If you’re doing that, and she’s working to do the same for you (“out-serve each other”), your marriage will be happy no matter what other circumstances you may be going through.

Homework

What does serving your wife look like in your marriage? Decide to serve your wife in an unexpected way this week, and let me know how it goes in the comments.

The Secret to Staying Married for 60 Years

Last Spring I wrote a series of posts on what it means to keep our wedding vows.

I thought that reminding ourselves of what we agreed to in the first place might be a good way to strengthen our marriages. After all, most marriages start strong as a commitment made from an overflow of love that makes the early days/weeks/months/years of marriage fun and exciting. Years go by and kids come along and routines get established and we get complacent.

So, a reminder of how it all began seemed worthwhile.

Keeping the Romance Alive!

An Interesting Realization

Before starting this blog, I read through several different articles on why people get divorced.

In revisiting this series, I came to realize that, for most lists of “top 10 reasons couples get divorced” that I found, the reasons corresponded directly to a vow that had been broken.

  • They promised to forsake all others, but she had an affair.
  • They promised to honor and cherish, but he got bored and took her for granted.
  • They promised to be together in sickness and health, but when a truly serious sickness hit her, he sought companionship elsewhere.
  • They promised to stay together for richer or poorer, but being poorer caused constant stress and arguments.
  • They promised, but…

Life is Hard

I’ve said this before, but we make these promises precisely because life is hard. Commitments are hard. We have to promise and remember those promises and value our word highly enough to be ashamed if we break our promises.

This marriage is something you once wanted strongly enough to stake your honor on. Remember that.

Maybe you already knew this, but it was revolutionary to me to realize that the marriage vows are designed precisely to counteract the types of temptations that will break up a marriage.

#StayingMarried – Click to order from The FamilyMan

Staying Married

The other day on one of my favorite podcasts, comedian Jonnie W. told a story about a show he did at a marriage retreat. He was questioning the audience, trying to find the couple who’d been married the longest. One couple announced they’d been married for 60 years!

60 YEARS!!

Jonnie was impressed, and he asked the husband if he’d share the secret to staying married for six decades.

The man sat silent for a long time, so long that Jonnie asked if he was still breathing.

Finally, the man took the microphone and said…

 

“Don’t get divorced!”

 

Now, maybe it was just meant as a joke, but it also contains a profound truth.

Getting divorced is a choice. I’ve never heard anyone say it is an easy choice, but it is definitely a choice.

I think the man was saying that he had committed to being married, and as much as it was up to him, he was determined to honor that commitment.

If you want to leave a legacy…

If you want your children to know what commitment to another person really means…

If you want to stay married for 60 years (and more!)…

Honor your vows.

Don’t get divorced.

Homework:

Think about the vows you made when you got married. What challenges do you face in keeping those vows? Let me know how you’re doing in the comments!

Quick Update After a Long Absence

Short version of a quick update:

I haven’t written because Summer 2016 lasted until February 2017.

My wife and I will be leading a Marriage Enrichment small group at our church alongside our dear friends the Bucklands.

Long version of a quick update:

It’s been almost 8 months (!) since my last post, and I thought you should know why that is.

My job explodes in the summer months with major projects and high-pressure deadlines. Usually the craziness lasts from early June until maybe mid-September. This past summer… well, the craziness is just now winding down from this past summer.

I invented the word “swampted” this year to convey the feeling of being more overwhelmed than I believed was conveyed by the more common “swamped.” (Actually it was just a typo at first, but I decided it was appropriate to make it into its own word.)

The only real pause we’ve had in the craziness of summer has been the craziness of the holidays, which were welcome and joyous but not exactly conducive to blogging.

As I say, the craziness appears to be winding down some, and, with that in mind, my wife and I have agreed to co-lead a Marriage Enrichment small group at our church with our friends the Bucklands.

I’m hopeful that the coincidence of work winding down (some) and the marriage group starting up will allow some time and inspiration for marriage blogging.

I won’t be sharing the specifics of anyone else’s lives, of course, but I do expect to be able to write generally about issues married couples face and offer ways to work through those issues. You know, exactly what this blog is all about.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Talk to you soon,

Davis

The Myth of the Right (or Wrong) Person

My wife and I met when we were pretty young. I was 18 and almost finished with my first quarter in college. She was just over a month away from turning 16 and a sophomore in high school. A friend of mine who was still in high school threw a party for the cast of a play that he was in, and knowing I’d be back in town for Thanksgiving break and that I was friends with most of the cast, he invited me to come.

She was one of two cast members I didn’t know yet. I don’t recall if we talked much that night, but She struck me as a fun, energetic, cute-attractive girl. I have no idea how I struck Her. A large portion of the group (maybe the whole group; I can’t recall) made plans to play Ultimate Frisbee in the park later that week and then (somewhat foolishly, in retrospect) to go “hang out” (none of us had much money for shopping) in Little Five Points in Atlanta on Black Friday.

YoungAndInLove1

She and I got to talk and flirt and just goof around together during the frisbee game some, and we got to talk and flirt and goof around some more over lunch and hanging out on Black Friday, and then I went back to college for Finals Week. I don’t remember it clearly, but according to my roommate and one of his friends who was always in our room, I talked about Her constantly that week. When I got back home for Christmas break, a mutual friend let me know that She hoped I would ask her on a date. This struck me as encouragement that She might say “yes” if I did, so I asked Her.

And we’ve been together ever since. As I mentioned in my last post, we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on Sunday, May 22. Clearly, we were made for each other. Right?

Were We Actually Made for Each Other?

I want to be clear about a few things before I make my real point:

  1. I don’t think arranged marriages are a good idea. I believe strongly in personal freedom and finding your own way in life. Also, as a stubborn person, my initial inclination is to push back when I’m told what to do, even when what I’m told to do might be in my best interest. As such, I think people should be free to find their own partner in life.
  2. I think of myself as relatively romantic, by which I mean romantic on a budget.
  3. I love my wife dearly and exclusively. There will never be another Mrs. Davis Hipps as long as she’s alive, which I hope (somewhat selfishly, perhaps) is longer than I’m alive.

With all of that said, I don’t believe in the seemingly romantic idea of the “soulmate,” that there’s only one person for each of us before we get married, the “one single person in the world who fills your heart with joy,” to quote Tom Hanks’s character in You’ve Got Mail. The idea is popular in Hollywood, as is the corollary that two people might be meant for each other but unable to connect for some reason.

I bring this up because I think this “soulmate” idea has damaged our perception of what love is and, therefore, what marriage is. Let’s say you married young. Maybe you and your wife have been arguing more than ever lately. Maybe you’ve gotten used to each other, and you don’t make a point of doing fun things together anymore. Maybe you meet someone at work with whom you feel an instant connection, or maybe you re-connect with a former girlfriend on Facebook. You spend time interacting with this person, and maybe you start to wonder what life would be like if you were married to her instead of your actual wife. You wonder if this other person would be more understanding. You wonder if this other person would be more fun. You start to think that maybe you and your wife aren’t meant for each other; maybe you’re meant for this other woman.

ConfusedMan_Insoluble

I mention these possibilities because they’re unfortunately common. Women are often more romantically-minded than men, but men often fall victim to this “what if I’ve married the wrong person” idea as well, that maybe they were “meant for” someone else.

But that’s nonsense. That way of thinking leaves you open to questioning whether you’re with the right person every time anything starts to go wrong in life. Any time you don’t feel head-over-heels in love with your wife, you question if she’s “the one.”

Let me help you with that: she is.

Your current wife is the one for you.

I know this because you’re married to her right now.

Remember earlier that I said, “I don’t believe… that there’s only one person for each of us before we get married.” I put it that way for a reason. I do firmly believe that once we get married, there is then only one person for us. The traditional version of the marriage vows includes the phrase “forsaking all others,” which means that even if you start to see someone else as a better potential partner for life, you’ve already committed to forsake that person in favor of your wife and to “keep yourself only to her.”

What to Do If This Situation Arises

If you feel yourself giving more time or relationship energy to someone who is not your wife, the most effective method of fighting back is to sever all contact with this other woman. If it’s a Facebook re-connection, unfriend them, and make sure your wife knows your Facebook password or that you have a joint account. If it’s a co-worker, you should avoid being alone together. You might even seriously consider looking for another job: your current job is not worth sacrificing your marriage, no matter what that job is, from Janitor to President.

And above all, focus on your wife. As I mentioned a while back (and I’m sure I’ll mention again), marriage is a commitment to a person, not a feeling. But that doesn’t mean you need to accept that the feelings are gone. If you feel that you and your wife don’t have fun anymore, own your part in that and do something fun. I almost wrote “plan to do something fun,” but honestly, you should probably be more spontaneous than that.

Go on a date.

Tonight.

If you’re bored with each other or feel you’re drifting apart, meet with a marriage counselor. Marriage takes effort sometimes, but the result is always worth that effort.

Homework:

If you’re worried that your marriage is in trouble, meet with a marriage counselor. If you’re worried that your marriage is getting dull, do something spontaneous and fun together. If your marriage has been going great, do something spontaneous and fun together! Tell me about your best ideas for this in the comments.

Celebrating 17 Years

My wife and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this past Sunday (it’s not too late to send a gift!). Last year we spent a wonderful weekend hanging out in Atlanta, visiting the Georgia Aquarium, staying on the fifty-somethingth floor of the Westin downtown, and eating at The Sun Dial restaurant on the seventy-first floor with a panoramic view of Atlanta and the surrounding area stretching out for dozens of miles. This year we bought a lawn mower.

Mower

Okay, it’s not quite that bad. We did buy a lawn mower, but we also ate at a delightful (read: quiet) restaurant in downtown Athens and enjoyed a delightful (also quiet) conversation. She got me a great book I’ve been wanting, and I got her some fun coffee stuff from her wish list.

Some Years You Do Less, Some Years You Do Mower

Not every year is going to be a huge event. Our first child was born less than a month before our 3rd anniversary, when we were still in “new-parent-panic” mode. My mom had been with us for the first few weeks with the baby and had only gone back home a few days earlier. If I recall, our anniversary celebration that year consisted of crying and wondering if we’d ever figure out what we were doing as parents. Memorable, but you know, not our favorite memory.

We have had some great anniversaries, though, like last year’s that I mentioned earlier and the time we went to Biltmore Estate for the weekend. We’ve done expensive weekends, inexpensive weekends, and just gone out to dinner for an hour or so. I’ve never forgotten an anniversary, although after 17 years I don’t remember what we did for some of them.

In Celebration of Commitment

I do think it’s important to do something, though. This is a day we set aside to celebrate and have some fun in acknowledgement of the fact that we have vowed to always stay together! It’s a reminder that we have committed to something very important and that we are achieving what we’ve committed to do. Especially for those men who struggle with commitment, each anniversary is a significant achievement, and it should be celebrated.

So, men, don’t forget your anniversary. Have some fun! Even if you’re low on money, get a friend or relative to watch the kids and just go to a park for a picnic or even just a walk together. Do something to show your wife you love her and you’re still committed.

Homework:

If your anniversary is coming up soon, your homework is in the previous sentence. If it’s not for a while, you can still start planning something amazing for your next anniversary. What’s the best anniversary you’ve ever had? Let me know in the comments.

We Were Just Talking About This

Guys, I was on vacation last week, and I’m still catching up on real life. So for today’s post I wanted to point out that last week’s episode of The Familyman Show fits perfectly with what we were just talking about here.

The episode features an eye-opening interview with Sam Black, a representative from CovenantEyes, the online accountability and web filtering software company that I mentioned towards the end of the last post. The software itself is only $15/month to cover every Internet-connected device in your house, which seems well worth the price for protecting yourself and your family from porn and other online nastiness.

Also, if you’re a dad, and you’re not already listening to The Familyman Show every week, I highly recommend it. Todd Wilson is The Familyman, and Scott Moore hosts the show. For right around a half hour every week, these men “remind dads of what’s most important.” It’s encouraging and entertaining, and I invite you to check it out.

A Terrible Poison in Your Marriage

I’ve been struggling to write this post for over a week.

There are several drafts, all incomplete.

I don’t like talking/writing/thinking about this stuff.

But it needs to be done.

So here goes.

poison

Porn is poison.

Prolonged exposure to porn effectively rewires the brain to actually dehumanize living, breathing, daughters of the King.

That is awful.

That is unnatural.

That is depressing.

So, it brings me down to bring the subject up.

poison2

Porn is poison.

Repeated exposure desensitizes the body to normal sexual pleasure, causing hurt and confusion in a marriage.

That is awful.

That is unnatural.

That is depressing.

So I don’t want to write about it.

I don’t want to think about it.

But I have to.

Here’s the worst of it:

 

I have struggled with giving in to porn myself.

 

I am embarrassed and ashamed.

I imagine friends being shocked.

I imagine family being disappointed, hurt.

I imagine strangers saying, “No kidding! You’re a man, aren’t you? All men in today’s world struggle with pornography!”

I get that.

I am, unfortunately, exactly like most men, particularly my age or younger, who have been exposed more and more to this poison since the introduction of the Internet.

I take no comfort at all in knowing that I’m not alone in this struggle because I know the damage porn can cause to minds and to relationships, and I wouldn’t wish that damage on anyone.

Confession is difficult.

I’ve never felt worse in my whole life than when I was confessing this to my wife.

I remember the look of disappointment and hurt on her face, and I never want to see that look again.

Confession is also freeing.

The weight of guilt and shame is much heavier than you realize until you confess and feel that weight lift off.

Her forgiveness restored my soul.

Here’s the thing: I want to hurry along and gloss this over and let everyone know that it’s been quite a while since the last time I took the poison.

And it has been, thank God.

But I don’t believe I’m immune just because I haven’t given in for a while.

It is poison, but unlike some poisons, immunity cannot be built up.

The only cure is complete avoidance.

And that, too, is difficult.

Because it’s all over the Internet.

Thankfully, there are resources that can help.

OpenDNS offers a way to avoid the poison.

K9 Web Protection and Norton Family (Basic or Premium) offer additional ways.

CovenantEyes not only helps you avoid the poison but actually lets your “doctor” monitor your “health.” (In case I stretched the metaphor too far there, I mean it sends records of your online browsing to an accountability partner).

Sites like FightTheNewDrug.org and XXXChurch.com offer free recovery programs to help conquer the addiction, if it’s become an addiction.

If this resonates with you; you’re not alone.

You can get help.

Homework:

Seriously, if you’re struggling, get help.

If you need to confess to your wife, confess. It will be painful, but it’s the pain of the needle injecting you with the antidote. You will feel better.

If you need prayer, email me through the contact page.

I will keep it confidential.

In Sickness and in Health

Dig, if you will, the picture: everyone in the family just feeling run­down and mildly miserable, nobody in real pain or even discomfort, just sniffling and coughing and funky. We’ve been sick these past two weeks. My wife held out the longest, but she finally succumbed as well. We’re actually still not fully recovered, which is why this post is a day later than advertised in the last one (sorry about that). Fortunately, this illness hit just in time for the discussion of the next vow in the standard list: “in sickness and in health!” Oh goody!

SickBoyWithTeddyBear

Taking Care of Each Other

We all get sick at times. I’ve actually always enjoyed this perk of being married. When I’m feeling lousy, the distribution of chores gets shifted, and my wife takes on aspects of daily life that I normally handle. She also looks after me, encouraging me to rest and take medicine. And when she’s been under the weather, I try to step up my efforts to get her to rest, take medicine, and let me handle at least some of her normal daily duties. We’re a team, after all, and if we don’t keep up with these things, the kids’ team will win, as they sometimes have when we’ve both been ill at once. But, hey, who’s to say if 11PM is actually all that late for a 3­-year-­old to be getting to bed? Maybe she’s just a night owl. And why shouldn’t kids have pizza for every meal once in a while, really?

Anyway, my point, if I remember correctly, was that we look after each other when illness befalls us. That’s why I was particularly shocked to read in Gary Thomas’s book, A Lifelong Love, that many men abandon their wives when they get seriously ill. According to chapter 11, “one medical doctor said that the number is actually around 70 percent – that seven out of ten men, upon hearing of a wife’s cataclysmic medical diagnosis, leave the marriage.” That can’t be right. I really hope that’s not right. I cannot imagine being able to live with myself if I chose to abandon my wife when she needed me the most. Surely I’m not in a 30 percent minority in that feeling.

But whatever the actual statistics may be, they are far too high. Men, we are men, right? Are we men of our word? When we vowed to stay together in sickness and in health, what else could we have meant? I hope and pray that none of us will ever have to choose between abandoning a terminally ill wife or staying and taking care of her as she slowly deteriorates. Really, though, we already face that choice, and we always have. We don’t notice it most of the time, but every day we’re alive our time on earth gets shorter. Life is terminal. Only the pace changes when illness strikes.

A Delightful Liberation

Just after the aforementioned section of A Lifelong Love, the author quotes a lengthy passage from Robertson McQuilkin’s memoir, A Promise Kept. His wife contracted Alzheimer’s disease, and he left a prestigious career as a university president to take care of her. As time and her illness progressed, he says, “I made a wonderful discovery. As Muriel became ever more dependent on me, our love seeped to deeper, unknown crevices of the heart… My imprisonment turned out to be a delightful liberation to love more fully than I had ever known.” When you love someone, you want to provide them the best life you can. Sometimes that means sacrificing much in order to love well. May all of us choose to seek a deeper love in similar circumstances.

Homework:

Think about how you and your wife react to illness in your marriage. Do you work together or do you get mad at each other (or both)? Do you still like Chicken Noodle Soup, or after a few days do you never want to even smell it again? Let me know in the comments.

And the Two Shall Become One

No original post today, as I’ve been sick and today’s my oldest son’s birthday.

In lieu of a post by yours truly, please enjoy this excellent article written a couple of weeks ago by my friend, Angela, on her blog, Adventures in Buckland.

And the Two Shall Become One

I’ll be back on Wednesday!

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